The Navy Midshipmen were good last season, and this season they will be even better. Don’t let the weight and height restrictions fool you. Navy has missed out on a bowl game only once (2011) since 2002. Former head coach Paul Johnson began the Midshipmen on a path to competitive football that has been continued under Ken Niumatalolo. It’s pretty remarkable a program that uses a system, rather than four and five-star recruits, has only had one season since “02” where they didn’t win at least eight games.
The story of a service academy in the FBS is unique. Just mix in the all the limitations on recruiting, budgeting and players serving our country, and you have your very own service academy. How’s it possible Navy has been able to sustain consistent success? Well, first of all Paul Johnson began an identity that was carried over to coach Niumatalolo. The coaching staff and players are all committed on the same mission, a serviceable defense to go along with a flexbone triple option on offense.
The run heavy Midshipmen ranked 2nd nationally in rushing last season, scored the most touchdowns on the ground, and gained a pretty good 5.46 yards a carry. Western Kentucky was the only team able to severely stop the ground game. WKU, along with Duke, held Navy to just seven points, besides those debacles Navy scored over 40 points four times, and over 50 twice.
The defense wasn’t terrible, as they ranked in the top half of the FBS, but even though the offense was able to put up a lot of points, the defense surrendered over 30 points to Indiana, Notre Dame, San Jose State and Toledo.
Navy carried heavy momentum as they ended the season 6-1 in their final seven games, holding both Army and Middle Tennessee State to under 10 points. The four point loss on the road to Notre Dame doesn’t look terrible. The offense was driving late, but faltered in the key moments.
This will be Navy’s last year as an independent before they enter the AAC. Will they be able to compete each week with a lack of size even in the AAC? We’ll have to wait for next season to see how that plays out, but for now, let’s focus on 2014.